Why Bring the National Guard to Ferguson?
(CNN) — By calling National Guard troops into Ferguson, Missouri, authorities are taking the situation “to the opposite extreme of community policing,” a former FBI assistant director says.
Tom Fuentes, a CNN law enforcement analyst, notes that just a few days ago, authorities were out on the streets shaking hands with marchers. Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol “was like Gandhi, promising to ensure their safety,” Fuentes said.
But growing violence — amid protests over the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a police officer — changed the situation.
“Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard … in restoring peace and order to this community,” Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Monday.
Police in the Ferguson area, just like many all over the country, have military equipment, which they used last week. So why bring in the Guard at all?
“You don’t want extremely tired, fatigued, overtaxed police officers out there day after day, night after night,” Fuentes said. And state patrol officers who came in from out of town and are staying in hotels, working around the clock, are surely getting fatigued as well, he said.
“You don’t need more military equipment; it’s more of a manpower issue.”
But there are other reasons it may make sense to replace police on the scene, analysts say.
Members of the National Guard may better follow a “unified chain of command,” said Jason Fritz, an Army veteran and senior editor of War on the Rocks, which analyzes national security issues.
In this case, that could be a big improvement. “I’ve never seen such a disjointed police effort as this,” Fuentes said.
Nixon said the Guard will assist Col. Ron Replogle, head of the State Highway Patrol, “in restoring peace and order to this community.”
In a later statement, Nixon said the Guard’s “immediate and limited responsibilities” are to “provide protection, and ensure the safety of our Unified Command Center, which was the target last night of a coordinated attack. The Guard will concentrate its resources on carrying out this limited mission.”
“With these additional resources in place, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will continue to respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard.”
If military police are among the Guard troops, they’ll have special training in crowd control that may help, Fritz says.
Fuentes rejects that idea, saying National Guard troops’ training does not prepare them for situations like this. “It’s not their mission to do local law enforcement,” he said.
But Fuentes and Fritz agree on another big reason it might make sense to bring in the National Guard: Residents are fed up with police.
Marchers have accused police of responding with disproportionate violence against a mostly peaceful crowd. And residents have described protesters helping protect stores from being looted while police did nothing.
Police also infuriated protesters by releasing a video that they said shows Michael Brown involved in a convenience store robbery — even though police themselves have said it does not relate to the police officer having stopped Brown as he was walking down the street.
By bringing in National Guard troops, Nixon is moving both Ferguson and St. Louis County police out of the way.
“That might be enough,” Fritz said.
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